by Chris Potter
As an old UPMC ad once had it, "The conversation continues." And that was Mayor Bill Peduto's message at a late-day press conference, called following his meeting with UPMC CEO Jeffrey Romoff and other hospital leaders.
The much-anticipated meeting, which Peduto first divulged news of yesterday, took place in Romoff's office. It lasted two hours -- though only an hour was allotted for it on Peduto's public schedule -- and Peduto said "the tone of the meeting was good," though he didn't expect to resolve differences after just one sit-down.
"The goal of today was to just open up a line of communication," he said -- though by the time the meeting had ended, discussions had gone beyond that.
Peduto says he discussed all three of the major issues concerning UPMC: the pending expiration of its contract with Highmark; the ongoing dispute surrounding a unionization bid by its service workers; and finding a way for the tax-exempt nonprofit to contribute to city coffers. (As City Paper reported in this week's issue, Peduto is seeking to reshape how every nonprofit -- not just UPMC -- contributes to the city). Tonight, Peduto said that agreement was closer on some of those issues than others, though "[a]ll three of them are sort of tied together."
"I wouldn't want to go into specifics" about the areas where agreement was closest, he said, "though I'm sure that's what you want me to do."
Peduto said that while he had yet to schedule another meeting with the healthcare giant, he hoped to speak with UPMC brass in the next four to six weeks. But he seemed less certain about having face-to-face talks between SEIU, which hopes to represent UPMC service workers, and their employer. "I don't know if that's even legally possible" under federal labor law, he said. Instead, his office could "serve as an intermediary" between the groups.
When asked whether he was dissuading the union from demonstrations like the one that rocked Downtown earlier this week, he answered he hoped the union would "give this some time" to allow further talks to take place.
"My hope is that they won't need to" hold future protests, he added.
Asked by a reporter if he and Romoff were on a first-name basis, Peduto answered, "We are now."